Ebonizing Red Oak Dining Table Questions

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Forum topic by NovaNewbie posted 06-21-2011 11:27 PM 3022 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 1951 days

06-21-2011 11:27 PM

First of all, let me say I’ve been a reader for a while, and now I”m ready to post! Great stuff here. Ok, now to my questions.

I am about as amateur as you get when it comes to woodworking. About a year ago I bought a 48” round pedestal solid oak table off of Craigslist with a leaf. And now I’m working on refinishing it since I wanted to get away from the traditional honey oak look and make it a little more modern by darkening it. So it’s been stripped, sanded and ready to go. I am using the bottom side of the leaf as my test piece and I initially tried SW Brazilnut stain and was not impressed with the color or lack of. So I found the iron buff method, and tried that out. At first I was quite impressed with my small swatch I did. I then used a large piece and saw that each plank reacted differently. Of course I understand this because this is a chemical reaction and each plank has it’s own chemical make-up. So I got discouraged and tried the india ink on another section. Definitely black and consistent, but I originally wasn’t going for black. So now my questions…

1. Is there any way to make the iron buff more consistent from board to board?

2. Does anyone have examples of a finished piece with the natural inconsistencies of the ebonizing process. I saw a picture of a floor which was inconsistent as all get-out, and to my surprise, I really like it. I don’t think it’s oak, but here’s the link.

Thanks again. Looking forward to your feedback.

5 replies so far

View rcs47's profile


182 posts in 2550 days

#1 posted 06-21-2011 11:54 PM

Have you read the Popular Woodworking article on ebonizing wood? They use bark tea in the process, and it might make a difference. This is a link:

I was going to use the process, but decided to use General Finishes water based ebony dye from Woodcraft because I only had a little to do.

Good luck.

-- Doug - As my Dad taught me, you're not a cabinet maker until you can hide your mistakes.

View BobTheFish's profile


361 posts in 1972 days

#2 posted 06-22-2011 03:50 AM

I haven’t tried ebonizing, but typically to get evenness in my finishes, I just sand and refinish until I get a nice consistent look. Typically finishes require at least a few coats. Nothing’s “once and done”.

If you like the look of the inconsistent boards in that photo, too bad. Unless you have a LOT of boards (think a table made out of 3/4” x3/4” cut offs), and you stained them all individually with dyes of varying strengths, (read: A LOT of work), you won’t get it to happen.

Another possibility is minwax’s polyshades, which is a tinted polyurethane. If you can find their ebony color, you can probably control the darkness better with multiple coats. It differs from staining the wood as the stain pretty much sits in the poly.

View NovaNewbie's profile


4 posts in 1951 days

#3 posted 06-22-2011 04:19 AM

Thanks for the replies. I know I’m not gonna get a table to look like that floor, however, I like how each board has it’s own character. Below is a pic from my first test on the back of the leaf.

Another question. When I did my test, the wood reacted quickly to the “potion”. However, I pulled it off the shelf to test again on the same piece of wood and I’m not getting the same result. Is it possible that the “Potion” has gone bad?

View ub52's profile


7 posts in 2404 days

#4 posted 06-22-2011 07:20 AM

I know with aniline dyes and some stains you can’t do a portion of a surface, set it aside, then apply the rest a few days later and expect consistent results. You have to do the entire surface in one application, and make sure to keep a wet edge where you are applying new stain. Once the surface is dry any new application of stain over previously applied stain is additive and will be darker than the rest of the piece.

-- Bob, San Diego,

View NovaNewbie's profile


4 posts in 1951 days

#5 posted 06-22-2011 03:56 PM

Note, the I tested on the same piece of wood, but in a different area. So I didn’t apply over the first test. Would it benefit me to treat the wood with tea first?

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